Faulty breathing habits underlie asthma and chronic nasal problems, such as stuffiness, congestion, runny nose and post nasal drip. People with these problems do not breathe correctly. No exceptions.
They ‘overbreathe’ – either through the mouth or through the nose. Overbreathing or hyperventilation means breathing more air than your body needs at a particular time. Research shows people with asthma breathe two to three times more air per minute than is normal. Normal is 5 L per minute; the average seen in people with asthma is 14 L per minute1.
Overbreathing is often not obvious to the person or their doctor. For example, breathing faster or through your mouth or with your upper chest while you watch television, work at your desk or drive your car can easily increase your air intake above what is normal.
Research: breathing retraining reduces asthma symptoms and need for medication
A study conducted through Mater Hospital in Brisbane using the Buteyko breathing method showed a 71% reduction in symptoms and average 96% reduction in bronchodilator and 49% reduction in steroid use. 'Buteyko breathing techniques in asthma: a controlled trial’. Bowler SD, Green A, Mitchell CA. MJA. 1988; 169: 575–578.
“ Even though no study has indicated exactly why Buteyko is so effective at controlling asthma, if a drug could show these results, then it is likely that it would be used widely in asthma control.” ‘Effect of Buteyko breathing technique on patients with bronchial asthma’, Hassana ZM, Riadb NM and Ahmedc FH. Egyptian Journal of Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis. 2012; 61(4): 235–241
An evaluation by Limerick University Hospital in Ireland of 26 people with a diagnosis of asthma and chronic rhinitis, showed a 71% reduction of rhinitis symptoms in asthma at three month follow up. ‘Role of Buteyko breathing technique in asthmatics with nasal symptoms’, Adelola OA, Oosthuiven JC, Fenton JE. Clinical Otolaryngology. 2013, 38(2):190-191.
See Science for further published research showing the effectiveness of breathing retraining in the management of asthma and nasal problems.
CASE STUDY: Mark, age 30, had asthma since he was five years old. He was on a combination (preventer/bronchodilator) medication and needed in addition 8-10 puffs of his reliever every day. He had been a keen cross country runner but had given it away because of his asthma. In the first week of breathing retraining he needed to use his reliever just once. On the fifth day, his breathing control was good enough for us to tackle a steep hill together. Soon after he felt confident to get back into his sport.
Books and CDs on breathing retraining:
- Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea: A step-by-step guide to quiet restful sleep and better health through changing the way you breathe. Tess Graham (Penguin 2012)
- Relief from Anxiety and Panic: by changing how you breathe Tess Graham (2017)
- Breathing Exercise Instruction CD – a companion product to either book.
Note: While the books are specifically written for people with sleep-breathing and anxiety issues, the information, strategies and step-by-step breathing training program in each book is also of help to people with asthma and nasal problems.
Take the Faulty Breathing Quiz.
Image courtesy of Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net